On multiple occasions I have had the opportunity to walk with a number of believers as they were dealing with the feeling of guilt. In fact every one of us has had an occasion in our life where we have felt guilty about something. When our conscience causes us to feel this way, it can lead us to true conviction and repentance and that is a good thing. However it is not a good thing when we continue to be weighed down by this feeling of guilt. So the question is… “What do we do with our guilt?” Well, the short answer is that the only way guilt can be dealt with is by going to Christ; this is the only way lasting freedom from guilt will ever take place. I have a little booklet written by Dr. Timothy Lane from the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation, and I would like to summarize some ideas about our guilt based on this booklet.
I want to first mention some wrong ways we deal with guilt:
- Declaring you are not guilty: The fact is most of the time when we feel like this, it is because we have done something wrong (now obviously there are some exceptions to this). But in truth, much of guilt comes because we know something we said or did was wrong. We can’t alleviate this by blaming society, church, God or Scripture for “making you feel guilty.” The fact is you are guilty.
- Trying Harder: This is the idea many times…that although you messed up, you are going to try harder. This is kind of like the person who begins a diet every Monday. The intentions are good, but many times the outcome is not. When I am depending on my own power and discipline alone and that fails me, it leads me to feeling a deeper sense of guilt.
- Focusing on your guilt: I have seen others sink into this emotional depression, because of the struggle of guilt. They are consumed by their sin: they can’t believe they have messed up. This constant worry over the sin they have committed caused them to focus on the sin and miss the Savior in the midst of a dark time.
I must understand when I feel guilty, that the Lord has given me a conscious, and as a child of God I have the Holy Spirit indwelling my life. This leads to conviction, guilty feelings, a troubled heart and many other emotions. At this point, I would do well to remember how guilty I am, that I do not Love the Lord my God with all my heart, strength and mind all the time, nor do I love my neighbor as myself often enough. The Psalmist reminds us that if the Lord were to number our iniquities, no one could stand. Christ took care of all past, present and future sins on the cross. As a believer repentance is a lifestyle, not a single event. My salvation is where my repentance begins, but our repentance is ongoing. The Bible reminds me in Romans 8:1 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Christ drank the full wrath of God for my sin: I don’t have to live under guilt, as Christ has paid it all. We should embrace our conviction and repent but, I don’t have to live under the cloud of guilt because God sees me as He sees His Son! So knowing this, how should I handle guilt? We will hit that next week!